Monday, 30 April 2012

Z is (also) for Zowie! Patrick Goddard makes it to my blog in the nick of time

I have only been paired with Patrick Goddard as writer-and-artist once, but what a gig it was - Ephrael von Stern: Sister of Sigmar for Warhammer Monthly #63. (You can read more about it here.)

When the final comic hit the stands I was thrilled to see the images Patrick Goddard had produced, particularly because he had also got to draw the cover.

Patrick's probably most well-known currently for the Savage strip in 2000AD, written by Pat Mills. However, he has illustrated everything from Judge Dredd to Sinister Dexter.

Patrick has also very kindly taken time out of his busy schedule (which includes having moved studios!) to answer my questions. So, for the last time this year...

1. How did you start out as a professional artist?
I started out a fan like everyone else and had always drawn from a young age. I’ve got an older brother who got me into comics, I tirelessly tried to compete with him drawing, growing up, and I suppose that was a great way to practise and improve.  I did the usual thing of enjoying Art in school which led me onto Art College for a couple of years (I found it a waste of my time). I’d brazenly sent a few samples off to Marvel/DC when I was 17/18 and went to the old UKCAC a few times. I had a bit of interest but looking back I was nowhere near ready at that age and ventured off to college instead. I’ve got a degree out of it, but apart from helping me become a secondary school teacher it’s never been useful. Your work will get you work rather than any qualification, my course was poor and I never really learnt anything there.

2. What was it that gave you your big break and led to what you are doing now?
After college I messed about doing a number of jobs whilst trying to make it as an illustrator/artist but got burned on a few jobs and felt if I’m going to draw for a living I might as well try something I like doing so decided to try comics again. I again tried Marvel/DC but this was before the Internet boom and I got fed up with posting stuff overseas and all the waiting. I picked up a copy of 2000AD in the mid to late 90s to see what else was out there, and was pleasantly surprised to see them using more traditional artists rather than fully painted artwork which was all I could remember being done in the 90s. I’ve never really been a fan of some painted artwork as some of it was a complete mess storytelling wise. I chanced my arm and sent off a Dredd sample to 2000AD (who was always cool to draw) and to my surprise they liked it and asked me to do a sample script and then hired me for a Sinister Dexter strip straight away (thank you David Bishop!). I wished I tried them earlier, looking back, but never thought my drawing style would fit into the comic. I worked mainly as a penciller as inking isn’t one of my strongest talents, but found there wasn’t really the work available to sustain me so ended up inking my own stuff.

3. What is your preferred method of working? Which medium suits your style best?
I work very traditionally, all pencil/ink on Bristol board. I don’t do anything digitally, but hope to get into that a bit more in the future so I’m not left behind! I can’t see myself ever not drawing on paper though, it’s the best part, but I know how much computers can help artists nowadays – and we need as much help as we can get! I love working out the storytelling and compositions best, much more so than the finishing and inking. I enjoy the buzz of creating ideas and putting them down on paper, I just wish I could fully realise what’s in my head. Maybe one day I’ll get there!

4. You have illustrated all manner of famous (and infamous) comic book characters. Which are your favourites?
I really enjoy drawing Savage and Dredd the most. Savage tests me in more ways as it’s set in the ‘real’ world and in black and white. You have to work hard to balance out the compositions to keep them interesting. I’ve been looking at some of Al Williamson’s Agent Corrigan stuff a lot recently to inspire (and depress) me. With Dredd, you just get to let your imagination run wild and it’s always fun to design ships, buildings, fashions etc. Mega City 1 is a great place to draw, although I still haven’t nailed it as much as I would’ve liked, but I’m working on it.

5. How does working for 2000AD compare to working for Black Library?
I found Rebellion and Black Library very similar to work for, Matt Smith is a great editor to work for, and I remember a nice guy called Christian Dunn who was always a tremendous help. He’d send me copies of complete hardback books to help with reference – amazing! The only downside I found with Black Library was that I never got any of my artwork back, which was a shame. I have copies, but they’re just scattered around the house after several moves.

6. What is the appeal of working creatively within the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 settings?
I enjoy sitting at home drawing so much that I don’t really mind the subject matter, but I was itching to draw some Space Marines at the time – they just look damn cool! Although I enjoy designing characters/settings etc, it was refreshing to have most of that work done for me already. As I said, Black Library supplied me with so much reference material I could just focus on the storytelling. Plus I’m sure the fans would’ve picked up on the slightest thing I drew wrong so the pressure was on.

7. How did you find the process of illustrating Ephrael Von Stern: Sister of Sigmar and producing the colour cover for the Warped Visions issue of Warhammer Monthly?
I enjoyed drawing the strip, although my one gripe would be that I wished it was larger – in page length and print size. There was so much scope in the script that I found I didn’t really do it justice. I had to draw some panels quite small and remember that some of them would have worked better much larger. But working with restraints is one of the challenges of drawing comics; you just hope that it turns out OK in the end. Regarding the cover, I submitted the usual 5/6 thumbnails and drew the one Christian picked; luckily it was the one I preferred as well. The colouring was done by Len O’Grady I think, and he coloured my Sinister Dexter strips. I’m really proud of that cover; it was possibly one of the first I ever had published. There was one cover I did for Lone Wolves which Christian liked and included it as a pin up in the hardback collection book as well as a calendar which was great.

8. Of which piece of work are you most proud?
I’d have to say the covers (I think I did 4) I always felt I wished I had more page space to draw the strips, to get it more cinematic. As for my other work, I’m fairly happy with some of the stuff I’ve produced, but I’m one of those arty people who believe they’re only as good as their last job. You always feel you can do better on the next one, so that’s my aim. I’ve just finished a couple of episodes of the next book of Savage. I was perfectly happy with them whilst I was drawing them, but by the time I’ve sent them off I could already see ways of improving them – some drawing, some storytelling. You just have to move on and hope to learn and improve on the next strip.

9. Is there anything you haven’t illustrated that you would still like to?
There are loads of things I’ve yet to draw. I’d still like to draw superheroes at some point, just to get it out of my system. They were the comics I predominantly followed growing up (along with Battle Action Force and Star Wars weekly), but I’m not as much of a fan of the genre anymore; most of them don’t interest me. I’m more inclined to draw sci-fi nowadays, or some nice European graphic novel would be nice. There’s so much I’d like to do, I just hope I get the chance and career to do it.

10. What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just started Book 8 of Savage (Rise like Lions) which is great. It kicks off at full steam and I think a couple of plot threads will be coming together, although I’m getting worried about Bill’s mortality a bit, I don’t think he’ll grow old gracefully! I’ve just finished a nice double page spread of 100s of rampaging Hammersteins which has been fun to do, I mean, how can you not enjoy your work when you get the chance to draw stuff like that?

11. What advice would you give to any aspiring artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I think the best advice I can give is to practise, practise, practise! Especially early on, the more you draw the more you will improve – simple. I used to try and pay attention to how things work, stuff like how the body moves, the way clothes hang, how things are built. I’d also look at how directors used to compose/light their films. I wouldn’t just look at comics. As great as they are to begin with, it’s always nice to take a step out of that world to see what else is out there. I’ve seen many aspiring artists with a distinctive style/design, but have no understanding about storytelling or perspective. You don’t want everyone to be the same, but I think if you can’t follow the story at a glance then I personally think you’ve failed as a comic artist. I mean your job is to tell a story, that I feel is the most important element to drawing comics, your style and skill will develop over time naturally. I don’t have a distinctive or recognisable style; I’m more concerned about getting the story across than being flashy or cool. Hopefully I’ll be happy with my ‘style’ one day, I’ve still got plenty to learn myself – it never stops!  

Thanks again to Patrick for making the time to take part in this interview. Remember, you can check out the other interviews I've conducted via this blog post here.

Z is for Zoiks! Is it really the end of April already?

Indeed it is, and over the course of the last month I have presented you with a host of artist interviews on this blog.

In case you missed any of them, here's the complete list with links. Enjoy!

A is for Adrian Smith
B is for Boo Cook
C is for Clint Langley
D is for Dan Maxwell
E is for Edwards... Les Edwards
F is for Fowler... Hardy Fowler
G is for Gary Northfield - a.k.a. the Stories of the Smoke book launch
H is for Hepworth... Andrew Hepworth
I is for Industries, as in SLA Industries - a.k.a. Dave Allsop's art
J is for Joshua Wright 
K is for Kev Walker
L is for Leo Hartas
M is for Martin McKenna
N is for Nicholson... Russ Nicholson 
O is for O. M. G... It's only Nikolai Dante artist Simon Fraser! 
P is for PJ Holden 
Q is for Questions I asked Dylan Teague 
R is for Ralph Horsley 
S is for Simon Davis 
T is for Tony Hough 
U is for the Unbelievable Art of Mr Karl Richardson 
V is for Vincent Shaw-Morton 
W is for the Wonderful Work of Simon 'Pye' Parr 
X is for the eXtremely eXcellent eXtinct art of John Sibbick
Y is for Yeowell... Steve Yeowell 
Z is for Zoiks! Is it really the end of April already?
Z is (also) for Zowie! Patrick Goddard makes it to my blog in the nick of time

So that's the A to Z of Blogging wrapped up for another year. Maybe I'll do it again in 2013!?!

Thought for the Day - Thank the Lord for dead-end tracheal tubes

‎"When one considers their boldness, their fecundity... and, above all, their unquestioning loyalty to their own kind, one is left thinking it is a good job that ants are not larger."
 ~ George Orwell (1903-50)

Scientists have long wondered why giant bugs don't exist today. Unlike animals with backbones, insects deliver oxygen to their tissues directly and bloodlessly through a network of dead-end tracheal tubes. In bigger insects, this mode of oxygen transport becomes less efficient. In other words, a bottleneck occurs in insects' air pipes as they become humongous.

250 million years ago, in the Paleozoic Era, insects were able to overcome this bottleneck due to the Earth having a higher-oxygen atmosphere, and so there were dragonflies the size of hawks and millipedes longer than a human leg. But not today - thank God.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Magestorm - available again

I am very pleased to be able to announce that Magestorm - my second Warhammer novel - has been made available again by Black Library in a shiny new zeroes and ones format.

The story was linked to the Storm of Chaos event back in the summer of 2004 and even earned me a credit in the Storm of Chaos campaign book*. It also featured cover art by the inestimable Adrian Smith.

The new eBook edition comes with an equally shiny and new blurb...

Lord Archaon's dark hordes of Chaos are rampaging across the Old World and all good men of the Empire must heed the call to fight against the encroaching evil. Standing to the fore is fire wizard, Gerhart Brennend – a loner whose mysterious past is drenched in tragedy. As the Storm of Chaos approaches the Imperial city of Wolfenburg, a desperate battle looms and blood will be spilled like never before! Wolfenburg must not fall!

You can buy the eBook of Magestorm here from Black Library.

Also available now is the eBook edition of Swords of the Empire which just so happens to features my hard to find Badenov's Band short story The Nagenhof Bell. You can buy Swords of the Empire here.

* Thanks, Gav!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Y is for Yeowell... Steve Yeowell

I first became aware of Steve Yeowell's work when I started reading 2000AD in the early nineties. (I know, I was a late starter.) The most vivid memory I have from that time was of his work on Zenith and I was later to enjoy it in the long-running Devlin Waugh six-month story-arc that was comprised of Chasing Herod, Reign of Frogs and Sirius Rising in 1999.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I discovered in 2004 that Steve would be illustrating my comic strip The Tale of the Hound (part of the Tales from the Ten-Tailed Cat series published in Inferno! and Warhammer Monthly).

Steve's currently hard at work on more Red Seas for 2000AD but he kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions for this blog.

1. How did you start out as a professional artist?
I started writing and drawing a strip for small press SF stripzine “Totally Alien”, moving on to drawing episodes of “Lieutenant Fl’FF” in “Swiftsure” for Harrier Comics, all the while sending out samples.

2. What was it that gave you your big break and led to what you are doing now?
I helped out John Higgins on a half-page strip he was producing for a music/lifestyle mag called “The Street”. That led to a cover for “Spider Man And Zoids” at Marvel UK then a fill in on the Zoids strip. When regular penciller Kev Hopgood moved on to “Action Force” I was offered the strip full time.

3. What is your preferred method of working? Which medium suits your style best?
I work traditionally, pencilling and then inking the pages. I use Photoshop for minor corrections and deliver files of the pages digitally.

4. You have created and illustrated all manner of famous comic book characters. Which are your favourites?
My favourites are the characters I grew up with – my very favourite American title being the Fantastic Four. However, I found when I had the opportunity to draw an appearance by them in “Skrull Kill Krew” that I didn’t want it to be me drawing them – I wanted it to be Jack Kirby...

5. How does working for 2000AD compare to working for Black Library?
Apart from the invoicing procedure, pretty much the same!

6. What is the appeal of working creatively within the Warhammer setting?
It is its own unique and internally consistent self-contained world.

7. How did you find the process of illustrating The Tale of the Hound for Warhammer Monthly?
Clear and straightforward – nice work, Jon!

8. Of which piece of work are you most proud?
“67 seconds” – a graphic novel James Robinson and I produced for Epic. James gave me a script like a screenplay so I had more freedom than with a normal full script.

9. Is there anything you haven’t illustrated that you would still like to?
I’d like to draw a straight historical adventure.

10. What are you working on at the moment?
The last series of “The Red Seas”.

11. What advice would you give to any aspiring artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Keep a sketchbook of real things – not an ideas book – it’ll give you a feel for what looks right when you have to make them up. And be persistent!

Thanks again to Steve for taking the time to answer my questions, and remember to keep an eye out for his work in forthcoming issues of 2000AD.

Friday, 27 April 2012

An Evening of Horror

Just a quick heads up to let you know that I shall be part of a posse of six writers signing copies of Dean M Drinkel's horror anthology Phobophobia at the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Lane next Thursday, 3 May 2012.

The signing/reading event will take place from 7.00pm to 9.00pm, and you can find out more details about it by following this link.

X is for the eXtremely eXcellent eXtinct art of John Sibbick

Tenuous, I know, but I interviewed dinosaur artist extraordinaire John Sibbick for the piece I wrote for SFX magazine about the history of Fighting Fantasy. And John has very kindly agreed to me posting the interview here for your delectation...

1. Which was the first Fighting Fantasy gamebook you read?
This was Deathtrap Dungeon, illustrated by Ian McCaig – it was sent to me when I started my first FF cover Masks of Mayhem. I loved the illustrations and the set pieces in the story. I decided then that I would take on interior drawings for future titles if asked.

2. Did you read FF before illustrating it?
I knew of the series before illustrating them but had never read them as a punter.

3. Which is your favourite gamebook?
I don't have a favourite gamebook – I respond to the imagery and drama – the more visual elements. That was the thing with McCaig’s work – loads of movement and eerie stuff going on, and he could frame each scene like a scene in a movie.

4. How did you find the process of illustrating FF books? Was it an enjoyable experience? How did it compare to other illustration jobs? How did your work on Dungeoneer and the covers for the AFF series compare to illustrating a normal gamebook like Midnight Rogue?
I found it quite easy to create a style for the interior drawings – more than I expected really – and enjoyed the process of creating on-going characters for Dungeoneer*. I had to design their armour/clothes and general 'look' in a 360 degree viewpoint – including above and below.  Some worked better than others. Midnight Rogue had a different approach. The reader became the thief character and their/your hands were seen manipulating locks and purses.  I enjoyed doing this story as they were claustrophobic – more shadowy and closed in. I felt I inhabited this world while drawing them.

Each of the three book  interiors were luckily completely different in tone, and although it could be pretty relentless churning out the drawings – and I had no time for any 'rough' sketches – now and again I look at the originals and am amazed at the work and detail involved.

5. What are working on now?
I spend a lot of time reconstructing fossil creatures and environments – dinosaur, pterosaurs, and human evolution – for museums, books and now and again TV. This year I have mostly commissioned paintings, after doing a lot of book illustration last year. I do the occasional fantasy project but there is not much of that out there for me at the moment.

6. How much did FF influence your career and what you are doing today?
FF gave me the opportunity to design a lot of scenarios in each book – you have to be consistent and able to dramatise the subjects listed – over 30 or so in each book plus vignetted text fillers. It gave me the confidence to do this, working fast, sometimes having to produce a drawing a day. I worked for Games Workshop at roughly the same time, and so the FF work helped me there – working on their larger book formats and model characters.

7. What is it that makes FF so special?
I think it is the parallel storylines, scary characters and situations, which is great for encouraging young kids in their reading and competing with friends at the same time. The multiple options and fantastic imagery makes them an original, affordable and quality product. (Sorry, sounds like an ad!)

8. How do you explain the gamebook resurgence of the last couple of years?
There is a lot of looking back in publishing and the generation that first read FF are very big on re-visiting their youth!  The effort and quality put into gamebooks has not dated at all and movies have been influenced by them, especially Harry Potter, with scenes of varying danger and monsters cropping up every other scene!

9. What do you feel was the impact of video games on FF (both negative and positive)?
I'm not a fan of video games – I prefer print, but I can see that the FF imagery involves the viewer and the drama is directed at them in the same way as that on screen.  The whole point is making decisions to avoid death (or worse) and can be re-run over and over to change the outcome.  The difference with FF is the chance outcome with dice instead of skill at the controls.

10. Where is there left for gamebooks/FF to go?
Who knows? The original books are mainly small, with mono interiors to keep down the price. Maybe electronic books, or larger full-colour formats; 3D would take them onto another level.

11. Do you think people will still be talking about FF in another 30 years?
Of course – the concept is universal – safely going into places of danger and with the competitive drama element it cannot fail whatever the medium they are in.

Thanks again to John for taking time out of his schedule to answer my questions. You can find a lot of his work (especially his dinosaur paintings) here at his website.

And remember to check back again tomorrow to see who I'll be interviewing for the letter 'Y'.

* You might be interested to know that it was John's cover painting of Dungeoneer that was the original inspiration behind my first Fighting Fantasy adventure (and consequently my very first published book) Spellbreaker.